I’ll own up straight away that I was underwhelmed by Sideways, so I wasn’t as beside myself with anticipation as some people were about Alexander Payne’s first film for something like seven years. This seemed to go in my favour though, as Payne himself asked the audience to forget about everything he had done before and come to this fresh. So fair enough.
It was la Clooney’s second red carpet of the festival, but with wrestler in tow and looking a lot more stunning than Mickey Rourke would in a frock, I steered clear. The Descendants is a simple tale of Matt King, a man dealing with some tricky revelations after his wife is left in a coma by a watersports accident (no sniggering at the back please). He has to reconnect with his daughters to find a way through the story that unfolds and the realisation that maybe he hasn’t been the best husband or father as well as dealing with a property issue that harks back to his ancestors and involves a whole field full of relations.
The story is deftly handled and adds more than a few laughs to the mix – not least from Nick Krause who plays Matt’s eldest daughter Alexandra’s best friend and gets some of the best lines. In fact, the strong cast (which I was delighted to see included Robert Forster) tackle their parts with warmth and raise the film from what could have been cheesy shmaltz into something much meatier.
It’s also fair to say that at one point Clooney does the best running ever seen in a film.